In case you didn’t know, there is an ever-so-popular trend out there known as ‘loving oneself’ where you look in the mirror, strip yourself of doubt and inhibitions, and decide you’re just going to ‘kill it” today. And we’re proud of you for recognizing that you don’t need a lot of the hate and negative self-talk that could be so dangerous to your well-being and livelihood. Unfortunately, most of our understanding of what it really means to love ourselves is still based on what current trends say.
Let’s try an experiment. But first, if you can truly admire all sides of yourself, double-chin and all, I commend you and please teach me how! Otherwise, if you’re fallible and beautifully human like the rest of us, read on! Alright, go ahead and snap a selfie without posing. Go ahead, do it, just the way you are. Look at it. Would you share it with the world or even just your friends? If you said no, chances are you truly don’t think it’s good enough. But what is good enough? How are you not good enough in the photo? Sure, you might love many parts of the person you are. But when you assess your selfie, you probably think you see ways in which you don’t match some concept of ‘beauty’ or ‘good enough’ that you have in your head. Besides, if you truly loved all of yourself, you would think your selfies were always good enough!
Unconditional self-love is the most difficult thing to achieve. It might even be impossible unless we live in the wild or in sheer isolation. And even if we can’t find who or what to blame for our inability to achieve it, it’s still flat out dangerous. If we have the tendency to not love ourselves sometimes, we risk hitting one of life’s rough patches and deciding we’re not going to love ourselves anymore because we’re not perfect like we used to be. We risk isolating ourselves, lacking the confidence to boost our careers and relationships, and simply hurting our own selves. So how do we get to a point of loving ourselves so purely that life’s rough patches are merely difficult times and not destructive to our being?
Even when we’re at maximum confidence, our self-love seems to be conditional on how we perceive ourselves physically. This summer, I went on a two-week road trip from Vancouver, Canada to Alaska and the Canadian North. The North was always a bucket-list item but in order to see such a remote area, I had to accept living out of a cooler, a tent, and a truck for 14 days. Without mirrors to look into or a real change of clothes, I set out into the wilderness where only a maximum of 30 like-minded adventurers were around. In addition to falling in love with the vast mountain ranges of the North, I distinctly found myself falling in love with myself. I hadn’t looked in a mirror for a whole week, I didn’t have cell service, and instead of people, I had the northern lights in front of me. I specifically remember that I was able to love myself in that moment because I had spent so much time without something to compare myself to. Whatever was ‘trending’ back home did not exist in the wild. Out there, I was just human – not a half-made-up girl without a shower. I took a lot of selfies – all of which I was happy with because they reminded me of my moments and adventures.
Though I remember that as soon as I got home, I was not happy with any of the photos I was in. It really was a shame. Knee-high wool socks, absolutely no make up, and unkempt bed head were not particularly in fashion at the time. The funny thing about trends is that they could tear us apart more than they keep us moving in one direction. As soon as someone can’t keep up with a trend, they feel left out. And feeling left out is notorious for triggering self-deprecating emotions unless you get yourself back in again. So what have we learned from this elaborate example of not showing a selfie because it’s not cool enough? Even the most confident of us can fail to love ourselves when we feel like we are or are about to be left out. Humans are inherently social beings, so this is understandable. But it does seem like if you were more confident, you would love yourself unconditionally as long as you felt like you always fit in.
Acceptance paves the way to finding unconditional self-love. If you want someone (your daughter, your best friend, your mother) to love themselves unconditionally, accept them for who they are, what they bring, how they think. If you want to love yourself unconditionally, accept yourself in every way so that, as far as you’re concerned, you always have a place in this world. It’s not easy. But it’s not impossible. If you have trouble with this, step away from the trends and competition that shut you out and go travel the North. You’ll see what I mean.
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